Perspectives: Todd from Utah State University

Costs for common medical procedures can vary dramatically from state to state, and even within the same city. In Utah, a surgery to repair an Achilles tendon can range from $6,336 to $14,981. By using the tools and services offered by HealthSparq, Utah State University (USU) employees can uncover cost disparities empowering them to make smarter decisions about their health care. This is one USU employee’s experience using HealthSparq tools.

My Story

HealthSparq had hosted a couple of tables over the months at USU Health Fairs, which is where I came across them. It turned out that HealthSparq was a new benefit being offered to USU employees and they were on campus to let us know what we had access to.

When I started to talk to them, I learned what HealthSparq’s tools do. It so happened to be that I needed to get an MRI at the time, so I logged in and searched the tool to see what it could do. I found several different types of MRIs available in my area and was surprised to find out that the place my doctor referred me to – and where I’d received three previous MRIs – was the most expensive in the area and the second most expensive in the state.

With HealthSparq, I found a place to have my MRI done that was several hundred dollars less than I had previously paid. It was a little farther away but worth it for the savings. Later on in my treatment, I saved even more when I used HealthSparq’s tools to find out that the $600 shots I was getting from one doctor only cost $200 at another doctor I was already seeing.

I had no idea…and neither did my doctors.

Before using the tools, I had no idea that the cost for the exact same procedure could vary so widely between doctors and facilities. I didn’t realize what my care would cost and didn’t think to ask my doctor questions about it – I just trusted him. HealthSparq’s tools have helped me realize that I can save a lot of money if I take a little bit of time to shop around. There are a lot of options out there for my care, I just have to do some research.

The last several months of using the tools and having conversations with my doctors about cost have also shown me that doctors themselves don’t know how much procedures cost – or what those costs mean for patients.

By understanding how much my procedures cost, I can talk to my doctor about where I decide to get my care and I can let him know that I can shop around.

We need education.

In order to make a change in our health care system, we need more education and understanding around health care costs. Most people just don’t understand that prices can be hugely different for the same service depending on location and provider. With how fast health care prices are rising and how high deductibles are, people need to know that there is information out there to help.

People also need to understand that cost does not equal quality. Just because you find lower priced care doesn’t mean the quality is any less. At the end of the day an MRI is an MRI no matter where you have it, the technology used and the results you get are the same.

What’s Next?

Seeing how much costs vary in health care has changed how I evaluate providers – and ultimately where I decide to get my care. As more information about cost and quality of doctors becomes widely accessible, I think the more expensive, poorly reviewed providers will see that people aren’t coming to them for certain procedures – and they’ll have to explore why. It’ll come down to cost and quality, especially as younger, tech-savvy people begin to need more care and are armed with the tools to see costs and reviews for themselves.

At the end of the day, HealthSparq has empowered me with the confidence I need to make decisions with my doctor that make sense financially for me and my family.